The concepts of identity and liquidity intertwine between the character’s relationships in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Lear conflates his daughter’s love with inheritance in the first act of the play, Edmund’s ambitious nature revolves around material assets. It seems when these characters lose their excess, they also lose a fundamental part of their character.
The first act of King Lear consists of a dialogue primarily between Lear and his daughters in which they must profess their love for him as both their king and their father. It is interesting to me that Lear cannot separate these two roles. ”Tell me, my daughters/Since now we will divest us both of rule,/ Interest of territory, cares of state/Which of you shall we say doth love us most.”. He’s asking his daughters to proclaim their love for him not because it is genuine but because it is required if they are to inherit his power. When Reagan and Goneril inherit Lear’s territory and rule, the power dynamic between them shifts and in this swapping of dominant and subservient Lear experiences what it’s like to be completely beholden to another’s will. I think this contributes to his unraveling throughout the play.
King Lear and Mr. Gettridge experience similar events but react differently. Both are expelled from their home. A safe, affordable, and habitable home with freedom from forced eviction is a human right. Mr. Gettridge’s story is relatively an uplifting tale when compared to the fates of the characters in King Lear, but the devastation of losing a home illuminated in The Old Man and the Storm shows that the value lost can’t be compared to any form of currency. The expulsion of a family is immeasurable.
Lear obviously ties his identity much more to assets than Mr. Gettridge. In Scene 2 Act 4 when Lear argues with Goneril and Reagan over how many knights he should be allowed to have on retainer, his loss of his servants offends him on a personal level. His servants are fundamental to his identity because they are tied to his power and status. This drives Lear to expel himself in the storm.
Edmund functioned to show how ambition to material wealth can drive sons to betray fathers. Edmund can be considered an outcast, and shows how when the game is rigged rendering an outgroup immobile and unable to change their status quo through legal methods, they can be driven to cheat the system. He can also serve as a reminder that the system is broken and there are always people like the Gettridges who will get left behind because without liquidity we can be treated as less.